Kentucky mens basketball point guard Sahvir Wheeler enters transfer portal


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats guard Sahvir Wheeler (2) smiles as he walks off the court after the Kentucky vs. Florida mens basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 72-67. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

Kentucky mens basketball point guard Sahvir Wheeler entered the transfer portal on Monday, ending his two-year tenure with the program.

Wheeler came to Kentucky as a junior after playing two seasons at Georgia. Heading into the 2021-22 season the Wildcats were in full rebuild mode after going 9-16 the year prior, leading head coach John Calipari to make numerous moves in the portal to bring in talent.

Wheeler averaged 14 points per game and 7.4 assists per game in his sophomore year at Georgia, though what many UK fans were worried about regarding Wheeler’s arrival was his 4.4 turnovers per game.

Kentucky Wildcats guard Sahvir Wheeler (2) dribbles the ball up the court during the Kentucky vs. Florida mens basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 72-67. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

In year one at Kentucky Wheeler was a part of a highly touted roster that included eventual consensus National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe and NBA Draft pick TyTy Washington Jr., which were also complemented by other veteran leaders such as Davidson transfer Kellan Grady and former Creighton transfer Davion Mintz.

Wheeler averaged 10.1 points per game as a junior along with 6.9 assists per game, with the Houston, Texas, native also cutting his turnovers per game down to three. He played 30 games, missing just a handful due to an injury he suffered running into a screen.

Unfortunately for Wheeler, his highly touted championship contending Wildcats were stunned in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by No. 15 Saint Peter’s.

In the match against the Peacocks Wheeler scored 11 points, the second highest point total by a Wildcat, but also amassed six turnovers with four personal fouls.

Heading into the 2022-23 season, many Kentucky fans were going to be less forgiving of any mistakes, frustrated by the lack of recent tournament success and having soured toward Calipari entirely.

To make matters worse for Wheeler, Kentucky also brought in five-star freshman point guard Cason Wallace, of which Wheeler would begin to be consistently compared to.

Things would get even worse for Wheeler when the Cats failed to record a win over an eventual NCAA Tournament team, barring Howard, until January 15, despite starting the year ranked No. 4.

Wheeler received plenty of blame for Kentucky’s failures, alongside Calipari, which seemed to come to a head in UK’s matchup against Kansas on Jan. 28 when, after Calipari subbed in Wheeler in a pivotal moment of the game, fans seemed to audibly boo, with the disdain directed at their own team, Calipari and Wheeler himself.

Kentucky went on to lose to the Jayhawks 77-68.

Kentucky Wildcats guard Sahvir Wheeler (2) celebrates on the bench during the No. 6 Kentucky vs. No. 11 Providence mens basketball game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 17, 2023, at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. Kentucky won 61-53. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

Following the Kansas game Wheeler played in two more games for the Cats, playing at Ole Miss and against Florida, averaging six points in those games.

It wasn’t long after the Florida game that news broke that Wheeler had hurt his ankle in practice and would miss some games as a result.

Then, six games later, Senior Night rolls around with Wheeler having one final opportunity to play in front of the home crowd at Rupp Arena after the infamous Kansas game.

Instead, Wheeler was not present in the city of Lexington at all, having undergone a surgical procedure that would keep him out even longer.

Coach Calipari’s wife, Ellen, wore Wheeler’s jersey for the Senior Night celebration instead.

Wheeler once again did not take part in the SEC Tournament but coming into Kentucky’s first round matchup against Providence, the point guard seemed to be singing a different tune.

Speaking to the media for the first time since his injury, Wheeler seemed to imply he would try to make a return to the court and that the rumors of him being upset with fans or Calipari himself were simply not true.

“That’s crazy,” Wheeler said. “I love this program, I love this team, I love the coaches that I’m surrounded with every day. It’s every kid’s dream to be playing at Kentucky. So, for (people to think he’s given up on the team), that’s kinda crazy.”

The return would never come to fruition though as Wheeler was once again kept out due to his injuries and, with the team’s eventual loss to Kansas State just a few days later, the 2022-23 season came to an end.

Wheeler finished the season with 21 games played, averaging 7.7 points per game and 5.6 assists per game. He finished 14th in the UK all-time assist leader’s race.

“I talked with Sahvir a few days ago and he decided that he wants to graduate and play one more year because of the injuries he faced this year,” Calipari said on Twitter. “He also wanted a fresh start, and I supported his decision. Sahvir has been a big part of our team and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Wheeler himself has not released a statement about his departure on social media and a potential landing spot has yet to be determined.